The ego is extremely “thin.” When stripped down, it is merely a line, a delicate boundary. We buffer & bolster it by constantly talking to ourselves and telling our stories. The first and primary characteristic and ability of the ego is “the judge.” The ability to discern me from you, up and down is the first function of the ego. Language then takes it out of the instinctual and into conscious practice. We literally practice becoming and being ourselves by talking to ourselves and through being in relationship with others.
The construction of the self is a social process. The child learning “No!” is the beginning of a true, solid boundary and barrier, although the process begins much earlier and is much more rudimentary. “No” is absolutely necessary to function in society as human being. Language plays an important role in solidifying this entity, our identity. But really the entity is based on a very thin layer of discernment. We just continually and relentless reinforce that layer with our preferences and assessments. Letting go of those preferences is letting go of ourselves.
The ego is simply based upon binary decisions. I like this, I don’t like that. More of this, less of that. Go toward that, move away from that. That is literally the entire foundation for the “self” and the rest of the structure, our identity, is just window dressing made of our beliefs and opinions, all based on the judgement of our likes and dislikes. Our perspective is simply a consequence of the bias of this-over-that and is the generator of a worldview. In other words, the window dressing is our worldview. But it’s literally just a collection of arbitrary judgements. Well, they are arbitrary but heavily influenced by the culture and societal norms and values. [I use “arbitrary” because in a comparative anthropological sense, they could be anything. Cross-societal studies show an incredible range, so to say choosing one over the other appears to be more bio-socially based than value based. Perhaps in another essay I will explore “core” human values and universal truths that all societies express.]
If you break the ego down to barest element and function it is simply a flap door. It’s either allowing stuff in or keeping stuff out. The flap door is our judgements of what we want or don’t want. The “stuff” is people, places, and things. Experiences, tastes, sounds, sights and feelings (corporeal and emotional) and our thoughts. All “we” are is the mechanism that moves away from, or, towards the stuff, we are just the flap door.
By practicing listening and suspending judgement we are actually practicing letting go our ego and putting our own worldview on hold in order to hold space for another’s worldview. The opinion of “this is good and this bad for the speaker” (client, patient) becomes irrelevant. We allow space for them to explore and decide. And in doing so they create a new awareness of who they are, what they want, what is stopping them or what inspires them.
In other words, generous listening, loving presence, and trusting yourself, the other and the process, are means to inhabit a way of being that is "outward focused" and hence, not ego driven. Quieting the mind and what I want in the situation allows complete attention to be paid to the speaker. In doing so, I observe myself, allowing my judgements to come and go, not acting upon them (with speech or otherwise), and re-entering the worldview of the speaker. By stepping into trust, one finds a space that is open, unhindered by the listener’s desire to go in this-or-that direction. And so we enter Being With, attentive and ready. Open and receptive. It is not a passive state, it is like a coiled potential, and allows for awareness to expand for both parties. We become a creative, free space for exploration, for anything to unfold and for discovery to manifest.